JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Senate leadership suffered its second defeat in two weeks regarding an attempted rule change.
Just a week after a vote on the right to recusal led to contentious visits from Gov. Eric Greitens, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard had to table a resolution many senators saw as an attempt by Senate leadership to consolidate power.
About two weeks ago, Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe sought unanimous consent to move onto the order of business of resolutions after addressing the third reading of Senate bills, which was out of order. Democrats objected it would take a two-thirds majority to pass the bill.
The upper chamber ground to a halt regarding an order of business misstep and laid the motion over. On Monday, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard presented a resolution aimed at fixing what had caused the snafu, but not without its own problems. His resolution would allow the actual order of most Senate proceedings to essentially occur in any order of the majority floor leader’s choosing provided a simple majority of the body voted for it.
However, Richard’s resolution irked several senators, including Sen. Jason Holsman. Holsman stated on the floor that the House model of leadership was more “top-down” where leaders had more control on what representatives discussed on the floor. The Senate, on the other hand, emphasizes the idea of each senator’s individuality and agency, and Holsman argued maintaining the current order of business is an important step to ensure that individuality and maintain the deliberative decorum inherent in the upper chamber.
“Rule changes like this are leading us closer to the House-ification of the Senate,” Holsman added on the floor.
Holsman’s amendment turned the simple majority into a two-thirds majority. Shortly after the amendment won out, Richard withdrew the resolution from debate.
“He knows that 18-15 we won the amendment that means we were going to win on the rule change and he didn’t want to do that, so he withdrew,” Holsman said later in an interview.
It was a win for Holsman and many other Senators who desire to maintain the Senate’s status as the prime body of debate in the Capitol. Evidently, a majority of the Senate agreed with him. Despite Holsman’s status as a member of the superminority, 17 other senators voted to approve his amendment opposed to 15 who did not. Nine of those who voted in favor were Republicans. Sens. Gary Romine, Ryan Silvey, and Rob Schaaf were among those who voted in favor, and they have never shied away from disagreeing with leadership before on major issues.
On the floor, Silvey said Richard’s rule change would affect the majority more than it would affect the minority because a minority could never muster a two-thirds vote. Schaaf agreed, saying Richard’s resolution sought to “change the rules to diminish each individual senator’s power” and centralize power with leadership.
However, new senators like Sens. Bill Eigel, Denny Hoskins, and Andrew Koenig also voted for Holsman’s amendment. Sens. Paul Wieland, Bob Dixon, Doug Libla and all nine Democrats rounded out approval of the measure.
Many of those same senators, though not all, also voted in favor of Silvey’s motion to invoke Rule 91 to recuse himself from voting.
Holsman says that’s no accident.
“This vote today represents the second time in as many weeks that the members of the Senate have chosen to put the Senate above the priorities of leadership,” he said.